Paul Dourish on reflective HCI
Been reading this paper from Paul Dourish tonight in the train: "Seeing Like an Interface" (a paper he presented at OzCHI 2007). The author concluded about "the burgeoning interest in a reflective approach to HCI" that would be concerned by the "critical dimensions of design". He basically describes technologies such as computers as "an effective site" at which to engage in critical engagements about the cultural values and assumptions. What does that mean for the everyday researcher/practitioner? Here are some hints described in the paper:
"Reflective HCI suggests an approach to interaction design in which cultural assumptions and values play as important a role as traditional usability metrics both as measures of success and as elements of the design process. (...) The discipline of HCI has evolved considerably over several decades, but so too have computer systems themselves. What I want to draw attention to here is not simply the fact that computers have become faster, smaller, and more powerful as technological artifacts, but that they have emerged as cultural objects in a radically different way than they did before. They are elements of the landscape of daily life in many different forms. Digital devices are embedded in our cultural and social imagination in very different ways than they were when HCI was emerging. To the extent that our discipline thinks not simply about user interface design but about interactions between humans and computers, these transformations suggest that we need to look more broadly for theoretical perspectives that help us understand how computation manifests itself as a cultural object"
Why do I blog this? surely some elements to be connected with what Anthony Dunne described in Hertzian tales about "critical design" (although the two visions are not the same). On a more general level, I find interesting to see when different disciplines (such as human-computer interaction or design) come-up with close concepts.
What is then interesting for the layman (for example when I am working with game designers on gestural interfaces usage for the Nintendo Wii) is to see how these ideas can be turned into (pragmatic) actions. In other words, what would "reflective HCI" brings to the table when I am surrounded by level designers, scenario planners, the production manager and the lead coder? Well, it's certainly different from showing graphics about usability issues (that bloody tester missed the door 14 times on that level!) but it does bring questions, insights, discussions that sometimes allow to reconsider problems and results from tests/observations/ethnographic accounts of playtests.